What I Believe by Bertrand Russell
I’ve read about Russell in 50 Philosophy Classics by Tom Butler-Bowdon. As I saw this book mentioned in another place, I’ve decided to read What I Believe by Bertrand Russell.
This edition has, in addition to What I Believe, two essays, Why I Took to Philosophy and How I Write. I’ve read the essays too and they are interesting. In How I Write he mentions that using a short word instead of a long one is better and I agree. Showing intelligence and knowledge doesn’t need complicated words and long phrases, as, unfortunately some people assume. His writing is clear, easy to read, and a delight to read.
Despite being only 40 pages long, What I Believe is made up of five chapters: Nature and Man, The Good Life, Moral Rules, Salvation: Individual and Social, Science and Happiness. In most chapters he talks about religion and how it affected people. Sadly, after almost 100 years, the things he mentioned in the book still applies today in our modern society.
In Nature and Man he makes a comparison of the nature of water and the human brain, a fascinating concept. He sees the belief in immortality as a fear of death. “I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive.” he says.
In the second chapter, The Good Life, Russell continues with “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge”. He gives examples of lives guided by knowledge or guided by love and neither are good.
In Moral Rules, he analyses the conflicts between desires. His views are interesting and I did enjoy reading them. Is something immoral because the church considers it like this even if that something doesn’t do any harm. He also talks in the book about things that do cause harm, but are considered moral.
Salvation: Individual and Social. In this chapter Russell mentions that the salvation pursued by religious people is individual, not social. People are doing their best for them and not for the community, in this aspect.
Science and Happiness. He believes that knowledge would make people happier. A subject already mentioned in the second chapter. Knowledge would help with bad desires and malevolence due to fear.
What I Believe by Bertrand Russell
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My rating: 5/5 Stars.
Would I recommend it: Yes.
Published by: Routledge Great Minds
Year it was published: This edition in 2014. What I believed was first published in 1925
Genre(s): Non-fiction. Philosophy.
About the author: Bertrand Russell. His full name is Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell. He was a Welsh philosopher, mathematician, historian, writer, political activist. He was also a Nobel laureate. His Alma mater is Trinity College, Cambridge, where he spent time teaching.
His parents died when he was a child. Bertrand, his brother and his sister were raised by his grandparents. After his grandfather passed away, his grandmother, Countess Russell, wanted the children to be raised as agnostics.
During the First World War he was a member of No-Conscription Fellowship and talked against US joining the war. He was a supporter of conscientious objectors. This will make him lose his job at Trinity College, Cambridge. He founded the Beacon Hill School in 1927.
He moved to US. In 1940 Russell had his appointment at City College New York overturned by a court. The reason was that he taught “immorality” and this book, What I Believe, was offered as evidence. It was obviously religiously motivated, as he advocated for birth control.
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